Saturday, April 09, 2005

"How to Hurt American Business"

An op-ed in the NYTimes today...

So much for the cheap dollar's help for United States exports. Beginning May 1, American companies that sell paper, textiles, machinery and farm produce to Europe are due to be slapped with punitive tariffs of 15 percent. Companies that sell oysters, live swine and certain types of fish to Canada will also be hit. Ditto for those selling certain products to Brazil, Chile, India, South Korea and Mexico.

Altogether, the tariffs will cost American exporters up to $150 million this year, but that's just the beginning. That number could multiply by leaps and bounds next year, unless Congress backs off its quest to tilt the global playing field in favor of politically powerful domestic steel companies.

So why is this happening? Back in 2000, Congress allowed a fiery protectionist, Senator Robert Byrd, to push through a bill that handed the tariffs that the government imposes on foreign competitors for supposed "dumping" infractions over to the American companies that filed the complaints. The money used to go to the Treasury.

The law was meant to help American steel companies, which are always complaining that their foreign rivals dump their products in America by charging below-market prices. It was a dumb move. The dumping charges are often pretty dubious. Foreign countries have long, and correctly, argued that the American definition of dumping often just means charging any price below the price in America.

On the up-side, the article had a good title: "How to Hurt American Business."


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